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The Skeleton Key cocktail is the ideal blend of bourbon, elderflower, and ginger beer! This fun drink is easy to mix up right in the glass.

Skelton Key Cocktail
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Here’s a fun drink that’s easy to whip up and packs a massive flavor punch: the Skeleton Key cocktail! This combination of bourbon, elderflower and ginger beer is a unique highball drink that’s bubbly, floral, and bittersweet! Topping it off with bitters creates a floating orange haze. It’s a modern classic invented in Detroit that has a spooky origin story, but we think it works any time of the year. Here’s how to make this easy cocktail.

What’s in a Skeleton Key cocktail?

The Skeleton Key cocktail is a highball cocktail made with bourbon, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, and ginger beer, topped with bitters to form an orange haze that floats eerily on the top of the drink. The Skeleton Key was invented in 2011 at the now-closed Detroit restaurant Roast. Then bartender Brian Volmer created a cocktail for a local Halloween competition, which went on to become popular at bars around Detroit.

The name of the drink is inspired by its rusty color, which made Vollmer think of the skeleton keys that opened the locks in his grandparents house. This highball cocktail is a beautiful balance between bourbon, floral elderflower liqueur and spicy ginger beer. While it’s the perfect Halloween cocktail, we think it’s even more fun any time of the year! The ingredients for a Skeleton Key cocktail are:

  • Bourbon
  • St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Angostura bitters
Skelton Key Cocktail

Tips for making the drink

Want to whip up a Skeleton key cocktail? Here are a few quick notes on this drink:

  • It can be built in the glass! Any time we can get away without dirtying a cocktail shaker, we do it! This one is perfect for entertaining.
  • Add the ginger beer right before serving. To preserve the bubbles, don’t mix in the ginger beer until right before serving.
  • Generously shake in the bitters (and if desired, stir!). The fun part about this drink is the haze of bitters that hangs at the top of the drink. However, it tastes best when the bitters are integrated into the drink, so you may want to stir before drinking.

More about St Germain

This drink requires a bottle of St Germain elderflower liqueur, but it’s absolutely worth a purchase! This tasty liqueur is a favorite of ours that you can use to make a French Gimlet, Hugo, and these 10 Best St Germain Cocktail recipes.

  • St Germain is a liqueur that’s made with elderflowers, the small white flowers of an elderberry plant. The flavor is light, sweetly floral, and fragrant. To pronounce it, say “Sahn-jer-MAHN”.
  • Fun fact: it’s relatively new to the scene. St Germain was invented in 2007! The vintage-looking bottle makes it seem like it has hundreds of years of history, but a guy named Rob invented it in the 2007. (Here’s the story behind it.)
  • How much does it cost? That beautiful bottle will set you back about $20 to $30.
Skelton Key Cocktail

Best ginger beer

There are lots of ginger ale brands on the market, but not all are created equal! We have a few favorites when it comes to ginger beer:

  • Q Ginger Beer: This is our top choice! It comes in small cans so you only have to use a little at a time.
  • Fever Tree Ginger Beer: Fever Tree is made with real ginger and has no artificial sweeteners.

More highball cocktail recipes

Love highball cocktails? These simple drinks are easy to build in the glass! Here are a few more long drinks we love:

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Skelton Key Cocktail

Skeleton Key Cocktail

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Skeleton Key cocktail is the ideal blend of bourbon, elderflower, and ginger beer! This fun drink is easy to mix up right in the glass.


  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  • ¾ ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 to 5 ounce ginger beer
  • 6 to 8 dashes Angostura bitters


  1. Fill a highball glass with ice (or clear ice). Pour in the bourbon, St Germain, and lemon juice. Top with the ginger beer.
  2. Shake in 6 to 8 dashes Angostura bitters. Serve immediately.
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!